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School of Engineering

Celebrating a lifetime connection to Tufts

Thursday, September 24, 2020
A Tufts alumna takes pride in supporting institutions that are making strides in expanding opportunities for women in STEM.
Fitzgerald family near Jumbo statute

In late 1992, Audrey Fitzgerald, EG93, A15P, A17P, F21P had a lot on her mind. A mechanical engineer at Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Audrey had been working steadily on a master’s degree at Tufts for several years and was presenting her thesis. Unbeknownst to her faculty advisors, there was one more attendee that day: Audrey’s son, Michael, who was born just a few months later. Michael, A15, recounted the story of his mom’s thesis defense—and his small supporting role—in his Tufts application essay. He is currently a student at The Fletcher School. Michael’s younger sister, Sara, A17, also attended Tufts, making the university a key part of their lives.

"With four Tufts degrees in our family,” explains Audrey, “we have a lifetime connection to Tufts. So we would like to have a lifetime impact.” Audrey and her husband, Bill, are enthusiastic supporters of the Tufts Fund and the Tisch Summer Fellows program, and they recently included a bequest for Tufts in their estate plan to celebrate the role a Tufts education has had in all their lives.  

Originally from the Boston area, Audrey majored in mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). After CMU, Audrey went to Draper Laboratory, and the company supported her in completing a master’s degree at Tufts. That educational experience enriched her career and deepened her commitment to transformative STEM education, especially for women and first-generation students.

Their family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, with Bill’s job at General Electric, but they maintained their New England roots. “We raised our kids as Red Sox fans,” Audrey notes. She and Bill were delighted when Michael and Sara both chose to attend Tufts; Michael graduated with a degree in economics, and Sara studied psychology and community medicine. Seeing the Hill through her children’s eyes was wonderful, says Audrey. “We loved every minute of it,” from learning new Jumbo traditions, to sharing her favorite Somerville haunts with her kids, and even viewing Tufts from above. “When the plane approaches Logan Airport in a certain direction, you fly in over Tufts, and you can see the blue of the tennis courts, and “Tufts” written on top of the library.”

Audrey takes pride in supporting institutions that are making strides in expanding opportunities for women in STEM. “I was the only female engineer in my [Draper] division at one point, so I had no female peers or mentors, really.” Today women represent 49 percent of the undergraduate Class of 2024 in the Tufts University School of Engineering, and Audrey is delighted to see so many female engineering students preparing for success in an environment that supports their ambitions.

Drawing women into STEM education is critical, but it’s equally vital to build a “working world where they feel empowered and comfortable and can make change,” she says. This value is reflected in Audrey’s participation in the Women’s Impact Network (WIN) at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), her husband’s alma mater and where he also serves as a trustee. WIN’s mission is to encourage women at WPI, and beyond, to enter STEM fields and to lift the aspirations of those who do. This year, WIN will cross the $1 million threshold of grants awarded to faculty, staff, students, high school pipeline programs, and mentoring projects—all funded by women.  

Helping students and young people pave the way for a bright future is a priority for Audrey and Bill. Creating a bequest to support the next generation of Tufts students has deepened Audrey’s enduring connection to the university and created new opportunities to engage in, and contribute to, the Tufts community. She hopes that other alumni will consider a bequest for Tufts, too. “If you're looking for a way to have a meaningful impact, bequests are a fantastic way of supporting Tufts’ future,” she says.